Turning your pug into a piglet or your Labrador into a lobster might seem like the cutest thing ever, but when it comes to fancy dress is your dog the best candidate?
Definitely not, according to one expert.
Nat Ingham, canine behaviourist and training manager at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, says putting your dog in fancy dress could be harmful.
“I think just dressing them up with random items like fancy dress is not really ideal,” said Nat.
“It’s not ideal for the dog and if that dog encounters another dog the other dog is going to look at it and go, ‘what is going on there?’.”
Speaking on Yahoo UK’s podcast Britain Is a Nation Of..., which this week looks at animals, she compares it to altering a dog’s appearance through the now-banned practices of cropping ears or docking tails.
“All of those features are really important to dogs so when you start to have dogs that have ears cropped and tails docked it’s harder for other dogs to read their body language.
“They communicate so much through body language that all of a sudden you’ll get a dog that’s looking at one going ‘what on earth, I don’t know - are you friendly, are you not friendly are you staring at me?
“So dressing them up with really weird fancy dress stuff is a little bit too far unless there’s a purpose for the dogs benefit.”
Nat explains that some dogs do need clothing to keep them warm.
She said: “Certain dogs with certain coat types living in certain climates might need to keep, say, warm in the winter. If it’s the Beast from the East and absolutely freezing cold, if you’ve got a dog with a short coat you’re going to want to put something on them.
“But it’s really about getting them used to wearing those items and those coats and jackets and things really gradually so it’s natural and for them it’s normal and they’re happy with it.”
Listen to the full episode of Britain is a Nation of... below
According to Nat, we can learn a lot from dogs’ body language, though it’s more complicated than it seems, especially given that they can’t voice their discontent in the same way us humans can.
“Dogs will use their body language and their vocalisations to indicate whether they want to increase the distance between themselves and somebody else, whether it’s another dog, a human or an object or if they’re nice and comfortable and its fine to decrease that distance and go and say hello.”
Watching their body language will mean you can pick up on the cues from them, says Nat, but that doesn’t mean it’s simple.
“Tails are the indication that everyone most commonly looks at but if you start studying dog body language tails are actually a bit of a misconception because a wagging tail doesn’t necessarily mean the dog is friendly.
“It kind of depends on what type of wag, how fast, how high the tail carriage is and things like that. you can look at body language, if they’re curving away or not, so all sorts of things.”
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